Anita R. Kellogg is currently a Lecturer at the University of California, Los Angeles. Her research investigates the effect of domestic politics—particularly, the participation of business interests in foreign policymaking—on interstate bargaining. Her recently filed dissertation argues that economic ties will only deter conflict when business influences the policymaking process. Illustrative case studies on the Colombia-Venezuela and China-Japan rivalries, as well as the many years she spent in South Korea, has provided valuable insight into the politics of both regions. You can follow her on twitter @arkellogg
A Presidential summit in May is not a high risk / high reward scenario. It is Russian roulette.
Last November the media poked fun when inclement weather kept Trump from getting his opportunity to stare down the enemy at the demilitarized zone (DMZ) separating North and South Korea. While Trump was reportedly frustrated with being denied this photo-op, it is regrettable for us all that he never made it. Despite the pageantry that comes with these visits, I know from experience that there is something visceral about standing at the world’s most heavily militarized border. There is a certain tension that cannot be faked. And for a moment, you cannot help but think of the consequences if this precarious peace was broken. While no one can claim to know what Trump is thinking at any given moment, I would like to believe that such an experience would inform his decision to either stare down or embrace North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un in a possible meeting between the two leaders.
Ahead of the 2018 Winter Olympics, the media has become fascinated with a common narrative that the erstwhile “bitter enemies,” North and South Korea, will march under one flag. The identity and political relations of the Koreas are more complicated than the “enemy” rhetoric conveys. Emblematic of this complexity are the families that are separated by the border, with living siblings that pre-date the division of the peninsula. The current thaw in inter-Korean relations is rooted in the late 1990’s “Sunshine Policy” of the former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung. Yet, the question remains as to whether direct engagement between North and South Korea has the possibility to fundamentally alter the political situation on the Korean Peninsula.